Monday, November 30, 2015

11/30: HBD Lefty, Clyde, Craig; Mooney Takes Over; Pete & Russ Signed

  • 1870 -LHP Frank “Lefty” Killen was born in North Side, then known as Allegheny City. He spent six seasons with the Bucs (1893-98) and twice led the NL in wins, with 36 (a team record) in ‘93 and 30 in ‘96. Lefty’s line with Pittsburgh was 112-82/3.97. The team released him during the 1898 campaign, and his last of 10 MLB seasons was 1900. He ended Wee Willie Keeler's 44-game hitting streak on June 19th, 1897 when Lefty and the Bucs stopped the Orioles 7-1.
Lefty Killen 1896 Team Photo
  • 1901 - Pirate coach and scout Clyde Sukeforth was born in Washington, Maine. A long time member of the Brooklyn Dodger organization, he came to Pittsburgh as a coach/scout in 1952 and was said to be the main driver in the selection of Roberto Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. He turned down the chance to succeed Pirate skipper Bobby Bragan in 1957 and retired as a coach after the season, but remained with the Pirates as a scout and minor league manager through 1962.
  • 1931 - George “Mooney” (he earned the nickname either through his moon-shaped face or because one of his early teams was called the Mooneys; take your pick) Gibson returned for his second spin as Bucco manager, replacing Jewel Ens. He lasted until early in 1934, posting a 200-159 record and two second place finishes. Overall, the Canadian Gibson (he was from Ontario) had a 401-330 (.549) record with Pittsburgh. He got his start as a long-time Bucco catcher, playing from 1905-1916 in Pittsburgh, hitting .238 but leading the NL in fielding three times with a toss-out rate of 46% against would-be base stealers. Mooney was the Pirates everyday catcher in 1909 when they won the World Series against the Tigers.
Mooney Gibson 1909 Piedmont Cigarettes
  • 1950 - Pittsburgh signed the Boston Braves’ OF Pete Reiser, who had been a three-time all-star for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early-to-mid 40s, as a FA. Reiser hit .271 in 74 games as a Bucco bench player and was released following the season.
  • 1976 - OF/1B Craig Wilson was born in Fountain Valley, California. He played as a semi-regular for the Bucs from 2001-06 with a line of .268/.360/.486, 94 HR and 284 RBI, along with a 28% career K rate. Wilson tied the MLB single-season record for pinch-hit home runs with seven in 2001. Hand injuries in 2005 and shoulder surgery in 2007 ended his career.
Craig Wilson 2005 Topps Heritage
  • 2012 - The Pirates signed free agent catcher Russell Martin, a three-time All-Star, to a two year, $17M deal, the largest free agency contract they had ever negotiated. He got a $2M signing bonus, $6.5M for 2013 and $8.5M for 2014. Russ was among the league's top defensive catchers and had a .290/.402/.430 slash in his final Pirate season. He left after the 2014 campaign, signing a five year, $82M deal with Toronto.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

11/29: HBD Hitman; Walt Terrell Signed, Andy Laroche Released

  • 1950 - 1B/OF Mike Easler was born in Cleveland. The Hitman spend six (1977, 1979-83) of his 14 MLB seasons as a Pirate role player with a .302 BA. Fittingly enough, he spent his later years as a hitting coach for a handful of MLB squads. Mike was the Original Hitman, not Don Mattingly. He picked up the name because of his aggressive style at the plate and his ability to drive the ball to all fields, leading to five .300+ seasons in the show and a .293 career BA.
Mike Easler 1983 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1989 - The Pirates signed veteran righty Walt Terrell to a $800K deal as a free agent, and he promptly had the worst start of his career, going 2-7/5.88 before the Bucs cut him loose in July. He did go on to finish up a bit more credibly with the Tigers, tossing through 1992.
Walt Terrell 1990 Bowman
  • 2010 - The Bucs sent 3B Andy LaRoche outright to Indy; he opted for free agency the following day. Laroche was a key piece of the Jason Bay trade, but hit just .226 in three Pirate seasons. The Bay deal reeled in Laroche, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris, but they never became building blocks for Neal Huntington. The GM was hoping to maximize the return by dealing Bay at the deadline, but later admitted he probably should have held off until the off season to pull the trigger.
Andy Laroche 2008 Topps

Saturday, November 28, 2015

11/28: Kiki, The Tiger, Wilbur Wood Deals; Forbes Field Blues

  • 1927 - Hall of Famer OF Kiki Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs for journeymen Sparky Adams and Pete Scott. He had bumped heads with manager Donie Bush, and owner Barney Dreyfuss was looking to dump salary with the Waner brothers on the payroll, so it was bye-bye Kiki. Cuyler played twelve more seasons, hitting .300+ in six of them. Per Wikipedia, two explanations have been given for Cuyler's nickname of "Kiki". In the first version, he had been known as "Cuy" by his teammates, so when a fly ball was hit to the Nashville outfield, the shortstop would call out "Cuy" as would the second baseman. Their “Cuy - Cuy” caught on with Nashville's fans. In the second explanation, the moniker came from the player's stuttering problem and the way Cuyler said his own last name (Cuy-Cuy-ler). The nickname was made popular by Nashville announcer Bob Murray.

Kiki Cuyler 2003 Fleer Fall Classic series
  • 1958 - The sale of Forbes Field to University of Pittsburgh was approved; the Pirates were allowed to stay on for five years, until new Northside stadium was built. In reality, the Pirates stayed on for twelve years, until TRS opened in 1970. The stadium was a political hot potato for a decade, until ground was broken finally in 1968. However, the Bucs lost an open center field view of town when the Steelers vetoed that design in search of more seats; the Pirates made up for that lost scenery when PNC Park was built.
  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 3B Don Hoak, 34, to the Philadelphia Phillies for IF Pancho Herrera and OF Ted Savage. It ended up a minor deal; The Tiger was at the end of his career while Herrera and Savage never established themselves in MLB. He got his nickname from Bob Prince for his relentless, hard-nosed play; it didn't hurt that he was an ex-Marine and boxer.

Don Hoak 1963 Jell-o series
  • 1966 - The Bucs completed a deal that sent knuckleballer Wilbur Wood to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. Under Hoyt Wilhelm's tutelage, Wood pitched twelve seasons for Chicago and won 168 games with three All-Star appearances. His career was cut short in 1976 when Ron LeFlore’s liner broke his kneecap; Wood missed that campaign and was generally ineffective afterward. Pizzaro pitched a season and some change in Pittsburgh before being sold to Boston in 1968; he would return in late 1974, ending his 18 year career as a Pirate.

Friday, November 27, 2015

11/27: Kendall Trade; Bob Walk, Damaso Marte Deals, HBD Marty

  • 1888 - RHP Marty O’Toole was born in William Penn, PA (Schuylkill County). A big time minor league ace, the Bucs bought him from St. Paul in 1911. In 1912, he pitched 37 games and 275 innings with a 15-17 record, 2.71 ERA and tied for the NL lead in shutouts with six. Alas, his arm was shot after that workload. He lasted just four seasons as a Pirate, from 1911-14 (his last MLB season), going 25-35/3.17.
Marty O'Toole 1914 felt patch
  • 1988 - The Pirates signed Bob Walk to a three year contract worth $850K per season after his 1988 All-Star campaign. Walkie went 29-17 over those three seasons and inked a two year deal following that contract to finish out his Pirate career.
  • 2004 - The Pirates traded two-time All-Star C Jason Kendall to the Athletics for pitchers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes as Pittsburgh wanted to unload the $34M due to the catcher over the next three seasons. The Bucs flipped Rhodes to Cleveland for OF Matt Lawton two weeks later. Kendall went on to play eight more seasons with four other clubs, ending his career with 2,195 hits and a slash of .288/75/744.
Mark Redman 2005 Topps
  • 2006 - The Bucs signed LHP Damaso Marte to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2009, worth $8.5M total over the three years with $4.75M guaranteed. The Yankees paid most of it when they traded for the lefty set-up man during the 2008 deadline.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Notes: Rumors, 40 Man Filled, New Bucs, Young Bucs, Old Bucs

The 40 man roster is filled now as the Bucs added a couple of depth guys, tho there will certainly be adjustments to come. The action this week:

  • Doug Rush of Yankees 101 thinks that JA Happ is a guy who NY may target. 
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Insider says that Pedro is looking forward to being dealt this off season, hoping to find a better fit (Heyman suggests the Orioles).
  • Pittsburgh bought RHP Allen Webster, 25, from Arizona. In 28 MLB games over three seasons for Boston & the D-Backs, he's posted a 7-6/6.13 slash, mainly as a starter. He was once a hot prospect with a mid-90s heater and heavy sinker, but hasn't been able to bring it to the show. Webster joins the 40-man roster. Eno Sarris of Fangraphs reports "...despite enduring a horrid year, he has three pitches that are above-average in whiff rates, and the changeup would rank in the top 20 (minimum 100 thrown) if he got more chances to throw it. The problem is that he has no command, and his velocity has fallen..." Sarris thinks a move to the pen might rejuvenate him. All in all, worth the price for his potential upside.
  • The FO also brought in 1B/OF Jake Goebbert, 28, from the Padre system on a major league deal. The lefty stick spent 2015 at AAA El Paso, hitting .294 with 10 home runs and 62 RBI in 122 games. Goebbert played one season for San Diego, hitting .218 in 51 games. He's versatile, playing all three OF spots plus 1B, and has an option remaining, .
  • Jim Callis of MLB.com ranked the top 20 prospects in the Arizona Fall League. OF Austin Meadows (#2) and C Reese McGuire (#13) landed on his list. Baseball America's Bill Mitchell's top AFL guns also included Meadows.
  • The Pirates signed OF Danny Ortiz, 25, from the Twins' system to a minor league deal. He showed some pop in AAA last year, tho his BA and OBP have yo-yoed throughout his MiLB career. Gonna be an awfully crowded outfield at Indy in 2016.
  • Also inked to a minor league deal was reliever Curtis Partch, 28. He's 6'5", 240 lbs with a 96 MPH heater. In 20 games with the Reds in 2013-14, he slashed 1-1/4.75 with 22 K in 30 IP - and 24 walks. He fits the physical model, and has a four seamer, slider and change for the pitch doctors to work on at Indy. 
  • JJ Cooper of Baseball America listed about a zillion candidates with the potential to be a Rule 5 draftee; none were Bucs.
  • The Bucs announced their camp report dates: February 18th for pitchers and catchers, February 23rd for the rest.
  • Another one gone: Assistant strength & conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose was hired by RedSox as their coach after a 15 year run with the Pirates.
  • Lloyd McClendon was named the manager of the AAA Toledo Mud Hens of the Detroit system. It's a homecoming of sorts as McClendon served as a coach for Jim Leyland's Tiger staff from 2006-13. He's also managed the Bucs and Mariners.
  • RHP Stolmy Pimentel joined the NY Mets on a minor league deal with camp invite.
  • IF Chase d'Arnaud signed a minor league deal with the Braves with an invite to camp. 
  • International League MVP Matt Hague, aka The Hit Collector, who played for Detroit's AAA Buffalo Bisons last year, is headed to Japan and the Hanshin Tigers next season. He hit .226 in a couple of brief stops (2012, 2014) in Pittsburgh.

11/26: Drabek Joins Bucs; Hot Corner HBD to Bob Elliott & the Gravedigger; Many More to Walkie

  • 1916 - OF/3B Bob Elliott was born in San Francisco. He spent eight seasons (1939-46) in Pittsburgh with a .292 BA, 124 OPS+ and three All-Star appearances. Traded during the 1946 off season to the Boston Braves, he became the NL MVP in 1947, helped in part by playing in a much more hitter-friendly field. Elliott was the second MLB third baseman to have five seasons of 100 RBI, joining Pie Traynor, and retired with the highest career slugging average (.440) of any NL third baseman. He also led the National League in assists three times and in putouts and double plays twice each, and ended his career among the NL leaders in games (8th, 1262), assists (7th, 2547), total chances (10th, 4113) and double plays (4th, 231) at third. In later years, he managed and coached in the minors, with a one year gig at the helm of the sad sack KC Athletics.

Bob Elliott April 1944 Baseball Magazine cover
  • 1947 - 3B Richie Hebner was born in Boston. The Gravedigger (his off season occupation) played 11 years (1968-76, 1982-83) for the Pirates, putting up a .277 BA and playing in five NLCS and the 1971 World Series. He left on a contentious note. After having his contract cut in 1976 after a poor year, he opted for free agency after the campaign. The Pirates GM Pete Peterson offered to match any deal Hebner received on the market, but the Gravedigger wanted a change of scenery and signed with Philadelphia. He returned a few seasons later.
Richie Hebner Pirates Greats cars
  • 1956 - RHP Bob Walk was born in Van Nuys, California. He pitched a decade for the Pirates (1984-93) with an 82-61-5/3.83 ERA, won an All-Star berth in 1988 and compiled a 2-1 record in the postseason, capped by a three-hitter tossed against the Braves in 1992 to keep the Pirates alive in the NLCS. He’s known now as a Bucco broadcaster, with over 20 years in the booth. 
Bob Walk 1990 Upper Deck



  • 1986 - In a pitcher swap, the Yankees dealt Doug Drabek, Brian Fisher, and Logan Easley to the Bucs for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante, and Pat Clements. It took three days to complete the trade, until Rhoden agreed to a two-year contract extension with NY. (As a 5 & 10 year man, he had to approve the deal). The swap gave Jim Leyland his ace; Drabek went on to win the NL Cy Young in 1990 while posting a 92-62/3.02 Bucco slash in six seasons.

  • Doug Drabek 1992 Topps

    Wednesday, November 25, 2015

    11/25: Roberto's Golden Glove String; Randall Simon & Jaff Decker Deals

    • 1972 - Roberto Clemente won his 12th straight Sporting News Golden Glove award, a string of recognition that spanned back uninterrupted to 1961. He and “Say Hey” Willie Mays are tied for the most GG’s earned by an outfielder with a dozen apiece. In his 2,433 game career, Roberto handled 5,102 chances with a .973 fielding %, threw out 266 runners and put fear of the Lord into countless others. He was such a versatile fielder that in 1956, he actually subbed at third base for a game and at second for two more. Clemente also played center field 63 times.
    Roberto & family showing off his Golden Glove (photo via Clemente Museum)
    • 2002 - Detroit sent 1B Randall Simon to the Pirates for LHP Adrian Burnside and a player to be named later (RHP Roberto Novoa.) Novoa pitched three seasons of MLB; Burnside went to Japan to ply his trade. Simon ended up better at swatting sausages (his “Sausagegate” escapade in Milwaukee cost him a $432.10 City fine for disorderly conduct while MLB suspended him for three games and fined him $2,000) than baseballs, hitting .245 with 13 HR in 152 games as a Bucco between 2003-04.
    • 2013 - In a depth deal, the Bucs acquired OF Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas from San Diego for 1B/OF Alex Dickerson. All three have since had cups of coffee in the show, with Mikolas getting his sip after moving to Texas.
    Jaff Decker (photo Grant Jeffries/Bradenton Herald)

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    11/24: HBD Bob Friend, Al Martin; Duke Dealt; Million Dollar Arms

    • 1930 - RHP Bob Friend was born in Lafayette, Indiana. A three-time All-Star pitcher for the Pirates, he averaged 232 IP and 13 victories for some of the worst teams in baseball. As a 24-year-old in 1955, Friend became the first pitcher to lead his league in ERA while pitching for a last-place team. He led the NL in victories once, innings pitched twice, games started three times, and WAR for pitchers twice, going 191-218/3.55 in 15 years (1951-65) as a Buc. He also was active in local Republican politics after his career, serving as controller of Allegheny County from 1967 to 1975 and as a three-time convention delegate.
    Bob Friend 1957 Topps
    • 1967 - OF Al Martin was born in West Covina, California. Martin played eight years (1992-99) for Pittsburgh, hitting .280 with 107 HR and 485 RBI. His best season was 1996, when he hit .300 with 18 HR, 72 RBI and 38 stolen bases. In Pittsburgh, he was backed by “Al’s Army,” donated thousands of tickets to various groups and even met fans at the turnstiles before the game. After his Pirate years, though, he was beset with a string of bizarre personal problems, tarnishing his image as a Bucco good guy.
    Al Martin 1996 Fleer Ultra series
    • 2008 - The Pirates became the first MLB team to sign players from India when they inked pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, winners of a reality show called "The Million Dollar Arm Hunt." Patel was cut in 2010 and returned home, but Singh made it to A ball before losing the last two years to injury, having TJ surgery in 2014. Their story was made into a movie called (what else?) “Million Dollar Arm.”
    Dinesh Patel & Rinku Singh (photo Doug Benc/Getty Images)
    • 2010 - After six years as a Pirate, Pittsburgh traded LHP Zach Duke (45-70, 4.54) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a PTBNL, RHP Cesar Valdez. Duke’s 2005 rookie year saw him post an 8-2/1.81 slash and he made the All-Star team in 2009, but never put up an ERA south of four after his first campaign. Zach reinvented himself as a LOOGY after leaving town and resurrected his career as a bullpen specialist. 
    Zack Duke 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter series

    Monday, November 23, 2015

    11/23:The Quail Replaces The Irishman; Goose Is Gone; USO Troopers

    • 1944 - The MLB sponsored a USO caravan to visit war zones, including Rip Sewell and Paul Waner. Rip was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons for the Bucs, notching 21 wins each campaign with his notorious eephus pitch. Big Poison was at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Yankees; he ended his tenure in the bigs quietly the following year, batting once more before hanging the spikes up for good.
    • 1971 - Danny Murtaugh retired as manager because of health reasons after winning the 1971 World Series, and Bill Virdon was named as his replacement. The Quail led the Pirates to 96 wins and the 1972 NL East title, but a 67-69 performance the following season cost him his job. The Irishman returned in late 1973 for another stint as skipper. Virdon moved on to skipper the Yankees for two years, the Astros for eight more (with two pennants) and closed out as the Expo’s field general for two more seasons. He’s now a special instructor for the Pirates. Bill had the oddball distinction of having been replaced twice by the manager he replaced, bookended by Murtaugh in Pittsburgh and Jim Fanning in Montreal. Virdon was dubbed The Quail by announcer Bob Prince because Bill dropped so many hits just beyond the infield but in front of the outfielders, a soft hit known in that era as a dying quail for the way it fluttered to the ground.
    Danny Murtaugh & Bill Virdon - 1960 United Press International photo
    • 1977 - The New York Yankees signed Rich “Goose” Gossage to a six-year contract worth $3.6M. Gossage saved 26 games for the Pirates in 1977, but the Bucs never made a serious offer for him to return (and by most accounts, Goose liked the City, the team and Chuck Tanner and hoped for a deal) so he took the Yankees’ money. When Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he invited Tanner as his special guest. There are a couple of stories as to his moniker; one is that White Sox teammate (and roomie) Tom Bradley gave it to him for the way he craned his neck while getting a sign from the catcher; the other is that it’s just a play on Gossage.

    Sunday, November 22, 2015

    Weekend Notes: Hot Stove, On & Off Field Action & Accolades, Ex Bucco News

    Players:
    • Hot stove stuff from Rob Biertempfel of the Trib: "The Pirates are listening to trade offers for Neil Walker and recently had talks with the Baltimore Orioles about the second baseman, per industry sources." He quickly added the talks were "stalled" because the Bucs are asking a high price. It's was tough to see a MLB match between the clubs anyway; the O's are also looking for pitching and already have a lot of high-priced players on their roster, tho relievers Zach Britton or Brian Matusz could interest the FO. TSN notes "Teams like the Mets and Yankees, who can offer young talent and an everyday spot for Walker at second base, make more sense as trade partners."
    • The other two candidates considered on the market are Pedro (doh!) who was thought to be dangled unsuccessfully last year and will be in his walk season after 2016, plus Mark the Shark, who is line to earn $10M and in his last arb season. He may be a tougher sale; there are several high-end closers that are either FAs or available for the right price. Pedro's 27 HR should make him somewhat desirable as at least an AL-DH, though his glove and inability to hit lefties will keep his potential return value down.
    • Cutch finished fifth in the NL MVP voting, behind winner Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo. Gerrit Cole got one eighth-place vote to come in 19th.Andrew did take home one award, tho - he won the Esurance MLB Award for Best Player-Fan Interaction for giving those kids in San Diego his wrist bands.
    • Jung-Ho Kang came in a distant third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind runner-up Matt Duffy of the Giants and the unanimous winner, the Cubbies' Kris Bryant. JHK is beginning rehab, although it's still too early to give an accurate date of return; we're guessing sometime in May.
    • Gerrit Cole came in fourth in the Cy Young balloting won by Jake Arietta, with Zack Grienke and Clayton Kershaw second and third. Pretty fast company... Mark the Shark got a couple of votes tossed his way, too, finishing eighth. 
    • The Pirates added RHP Tyler Glasnow, 1B Josh Bell, OF Harold Ramirez and IF Max Moroff to the 40-man roster
    • IF Adam Frazier was named to the All-World Team of the recent Premier 12 (World) tournament. He batted .333 for the US squad.
    • Rumbunter has a all you need to know recap of the Pirates Arizona Fall league prospects. 
    • The Bucs inked indy league RHP Patrick Johnson, 27, who won 15 game with a 2.08 ERA pitching for Sioux City. It's a minor league deal with an invite to camp.
    Exec/Off Field:
    • Jim Bowden of ESPN picked his top GM's of the Year (behind the Insider's subscription wall) and Neal Huntington was his choice for best small market exec because of his ability to find "Good talent at good prices."
    • The Pirates hired Mike Mangan as Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting. He was a national cross-checker of amateur players for the Jays and had been with Toronto since 1999 in the same position.
    • Pirates Opening Day has been switched from April 4th to the 3rd, a Sunday. The game will begin at 1:35 and be the first game of the 2016 MLB season. The contest will be on ESPN.
    • This year the Pirates' last exhibition will be at Victory Field at Indy against the Reds on April 2nd. It is already sold out, and is in fact the quickest sell out on VF history.
    • The Pirates do a great job of community support, and a lot of it is because of an active group of alumni. Family Hospice's anniversary soiree included story-telling ex-Buccos Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen and Kent Tekulve, along with announcers Greg Brown & Paul Alexander.
     Former Bucs in the news:
    • Clint's old bench coach Jeff Banister won the AL Manager of the year after leading the Rangers from worst to first in the division last season. 
    • RHP Yhonathan Barrios, a hard-throwing hurler who was sent to the Brewers in exchange for  A-Ram, is turning some heads in Milwaukee. The reliever (who can touch 100) is on the 40-man and pitched well for them in a September call up.
    • RHP Blake Wood, Indy's closer last year (3.53 ERA, 29 saves), signed a deal with the Reds.
    • With Daniel Murphy turning down the Met's qualifying offer, Michael Salfino of the Wall Street Journal wonders if it's time for ex-Bucco 2B prospect Dilson Herrera, traded to NY  in 2013 as part of the Marlon Byrd deal, to take over.
    • RHP Jesse Chavez, who was dealt to the Rays for Akinori Iwamura in a not-so-hot deal, was dealt to Toronto. After six seasons as a reliever, the Oakland A's turned him into a starter and he's been pretty solid holding up the back end of their rotation.
    • Veteran LHP Sean Burnett, who pitched three years for the Bucs, signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nats with a camp invite.
    • RHP Chris Leroux, who worked parts of 2010-13 for the Pirates, was signed by the Phillies.
    • The Cubs signed converted infielder turned reliever RHP Andury Acevedo and placed him on the 40-man. The Bucs set him free in 2012, and he signed on with the Yankees.
    • The Astros released OF Robby Grossman, who the Bucs sent to Houston as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal. 
    • LHP Wei-Chung Wang, Buc minor leaguer who the Brewers took in a stealth 2013 Rule 5 claim, was left unprotected by Milwaukee after they had carried him on the active roster for two seasons.

    11/22: Bucs Claim Clemente From Dodgers; HBD Rowdy Richard; Big Jim for Larry French

    • 1907 - IF Dick Bartell was born in Chicago. He began his 18 year MLB career with Pittsburgh (1927-30) and hit .301 as a Bucco before being traded to the Phillies after butting heads with Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss; his nickname was “Rowdy Richard” because of his aggressive play and jousts with management (in fact, he selected that moniker as the title of his autobiography). He added 14 more seasons to his resume afterward, missing a couple of years during WW2, and made a pair of All-Star teams.
    Dick Bartell 1933 Goudey
    • 1934 - The Pirates acquired P Guy Bush, P Big Jim Weaver (he was 6’6”), and 1B/OF Babe Herman from the Cubs for P Larry French and OF Fred Lindstrom. French ended up the key figure; he pitched seven years for Chicago, winning 95 games, while Weaver was a Buc for three seasons and won 36 contests.
    • 1954 - The Pirates, with the first pick, selected Roberto Clemente from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft, signing him to a $20,000 bonus and sending $4,000 to Brooklyn, on the recommendation of scout Clyde Sukeforth. It was money well spent for a Hall-of-Fame player with 3,000 hits, four batting titles, 15 All-Star games and 12 Golden Glove awards during his Pittsburgh career.
    Roberto Clemente (Associated Press photo)

    Saturday, November 21, 2015

    11/21: HBD Donora's Stan the Man & Junior, Brian; Bucs Close But No Cigar In MVP Race; Clint Barmes Inked; Todd For Grace/Passeau

    • 1920 - Hall of Famer Stan Musial of the Cards was born in Donora. Stan the Man compiled 3,630 career hits, ranking fourth all-time and first in a career spent with only one team. With 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road, he also is considered to be the most consistent hitter of his era. He hit 475 home runs, was named the NL's MVP three times, and won three World Series championship titles. He shares the MLB record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Musial was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
    • 1935 - The Phillies sent C Al Todd to Pittsburgh for C Earl Grace and rookie RHP Claude Passeau, who worked just one game for the Pirates during the season. Todd caught three years for the Bucs, while Passeau put up a 162-150/3.32 line during a 13 year MLB career.
    Al Todd (photo via Retro Images)
    • 1969 - Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle and Cincinnati fame was born in Donora. The Kid (a childhood nickname to sort him out from his dad, Ken Sr.) was a 13-time All-Star, and his 630 home runs rank as the sixth-most in MLB history. Griffey also won 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field. He's tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run (8 games, tied with Don Mattingly and Dale Long). His dad, Ken Griffey Sr., was born there and was a multi-sport star at Donora HS, graduating the year before it merged with Monongahela to form Ringgold.
    • 1973 - Pete Rose won the NL MVP, edging out Willie Stargell by a 274-250 tally. Rose took his third batting crown with a .338 mark. Stargell led the league with 44 HR, 119 RBI, and a .646 slugging percentage while batting .299. Many in Pittsburgh still believe Captain Willie wuz robbed because of the Charlie Hustle mystique.
    • 1975 - RHP Brian Meadows was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 2002-05. The Bucs converted him to a reliever in 2003, and his line with the Pirates was 8-12-2 with a 4.20 ERA. He went on to Tampa Bay in 2006 and retired the following season after failing to make it out of camp with the Reds.
    Brain Meadows (photo John Grieshop/Getty Images)
    • 1991 - The Brave's 3B Terry Pendleton, who hit .319 with 22 HR and 86 RBI, won the NL MVP over Barry Bonds, who hit .292, with 25 HR & 116 RBI by a 274-259 point count. Bobby Bonilla came in third and was thought to have split Bond's vote.
    • 2011 - The Pirates signed free agent SS Clint Barmes to a two year, $10.5M contract, their first $10M+ free agent deal since they signed Steve Buechele in 1991. Barmes inked a one-year deal in 2014 for $2M to serve as insurance for Jordy Mercer and is currently a FA. His 2013 walk up song, Journey's "Don’t Stop Believing," became the Bucs' theme for the season when they finally broke their 20-year losing streak and made the playoffs.

    Friday, November 20, 2015

    40 Man Roster: Who Is On & Who Is Not

    Today was the 40-man roster deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft on December 10th. We split the players into self-explanatory groupings, with a little explanation of the process at the end. The picks didn't fill the 40-man yet; there are 38 players on it as NH and crew scan the waiver wires and leave a little room for free agents. We'll start with the prospects on the Top Thirty list that were eligible for the draft:

    MLB.com's Top 30 Pirate Prospects Eligible for Rule 5:
    • No. 1 Tyler Glasnow, RHP
    • No. 3 Josh Bell, 1B
    • No. 7 Harold Ramirez, OF
    • No. 16 Barrett Barnes, OF
    • No. 17 Clay Holmes, RHP
    • No. 27 Luis Heredia, RHP
    Added to the 40-Man Roster:
    • Josh Bell, 1B: Bell is the heir apparent at first. His bat works, although the Pirates are looking for some extra power. His glove...well, a work in progress for the converted outfielder. His future is tied to Pedro's - if the Big Bull is dealt this winter, Bell has a chance to get a June call up.
    • Tyler Glasnow, RHP: Glasnow is the next big thing. The towering (6'8") pitcher mostly did good things in a brief stint at Indy and may be a June call up if the back of the Bucco rotation falters.
    Tyler Glasnow (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
    • Max Moroff, IF: Moroff  hit .293/.374/.409 with 17 stolen bases for the Altoona Curve while playing 2B, SS and 3B, showing just the kind of all-around versatility prized by the Buccos. He was the only no-brainer on the list, as he wasn't even among the Pirates Top 30 Prospects.
    • Harold Ramirez, OF: Ramirez hit .337/.399/.458 at Bradenton in 2015. He's got center field range, a right fielder's arm and shown a consistent good stick, so he's an insurance policy for Gregory Polanco. H-Ram is projected to develop into an everyday, possibly impact, player after he's gotten his taste of the upper level (he just turned 21).
    Surprise Omissions (Guys That Stand a Chance Of Being Claimed):
    • Barrett Barnes, OF: Barnes is a solid ballplayer that projects as a fourth outfield type. He's spent more than his fair share of time in the tub, and it may be the Buccos just don't have a good enough read on him yet and hope no one else has, either.
    • Dan Gamache IF:  He's a lefty that hit .335 BA, but isn't a plug-and-play fielder like Moroff, limited to second and third. Gamache's stint at Indy wasn't as strong with the stick, batting .257 in 30 games. He passed through Rule 5 last year, but may be a fit for someone's bench this time around.
    • Clay Holmes, RHP: The Bucs are rolling the dice that injuries and lack of a work record keep him safely in the system this year. Holmes just came back from 2014 TJ surgery, working 36 IP in 2015. He throws a mid-nineties sinker that results in a lot of ground balls, just up the Pirate alley, so the FO must feel that his lack of innings will keep him in the organization, although someone may be willing to stick him in the pen for a year.
    Not all the young guys needed to be added; several big-name prospects and depth players were already on the 40-man roster prior to today.

    Already On the 40-Man Roster:
    • Keon Broxton, OF: Broxton got a taste in September and is one of several guys in the mix for a fourth outfield spot.
    • Elias Diaz: He got a cup-of-coffee call up, but is the top catcher in the system. His short term future will be determined by Fran Cervelli and whether he signs on past this season.
    • Willie Garcia OF: He's a toolsy free swinger who whiffs a lot and rarely walks, but he can lose some baseballs. He was at Indy at age 22; his future hinges on picking up some plate discipline while time is on his side.
    • Alen Hanson 2B: He took to second fairly well at Indy and can also play third and short. The fleet footed switch-hitter is Neil Walker's caddy, and isn't far from his call to the show.
    Alen Hanson (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
    • John Holdzkom RHP: The Pirates like his arm; he rebounded from a wild child start to a decent season at Indy, but has had shoulder issues. Stiil, he can contribute to a bullpen in transition if healthy.
    • Nick Kingham RHP: The highly touted prospect had TJ surgery in May, so he's hors de combat until the summer.
    • Guido Knudson: Knudson is a waiver claim from Detroit, another grab bag in the Bucs annual collection of depth relievers.
    • Gift Ngoepe, IF: Ngoepe is a good glove, not-so-good stick infielder with decent wheels and a nice back story who will challenge P-Flo on the depth chart. He's already made it past the Rule 5 draft twice, but this was his minor league free agency year, so the Bucs added him rather than let him walk.
    • Jorge Rondon RHP: Another Bucco reclamation project; maybe the FO sees some Arquimedes Caminaro in him. He's a fastball (mid-90s)/slider guy and we'd expect to see the Pirates try to switch him from a four-seam to two-seam arsenal.
    • Tony Sanchez C: Tony's work behind the plate is adequate and his throwing problems well known. He's hit OK in the show, but Diaz needs to play. Sanchez is out of options, too. It's hard to see him making it to camp, much less through it.
    • Jameson Taillon RHP: The 2010 first-round pick (second overall) underwent Tommy John surgery and for all intents and purposes has gone two years without throwing in anger. He's back tossing finally, but realistically looks more like he has a 2017 ETA tho late this season is possible.
    Bubble Decisions (The Close-But-No-Cigar Class):
    • Zack Dodson, LHP: Dodson had a decent year (7-10, 3.67) at Altoona and solid stuff, but has to show a breakout campaign. He may fly the coop anyway, as he declared for MiLB free agency.
    • Jin-De Jhang, C: He's a good stick, but has Reese McGuire behind him and Elias Diaz ahead. His D is iffy, too, although he did look sharp in the recent World Games.
    • Jose Osuna, 1B/OF: He can hit, but probably profiles more as a DH. He does show some power and is having a nice winter, so at 24 he may still have a future in Pittsburgh.
    • Jacob Stallings, C: Great glove and has control of the pitching staff. But his bat doesn't really play. He's valuable to an organization as a guy who can bring young pitchers along. The question is whether some club will take a flyer on a glove only bench backstop; it's not  that uncommon.
    Sorry, Charlie (The No Way Jose Group of Eligibles):
    • Stetson Allie, 1B/OF: Allie hit .205 at Altoona with 100+ K. Bonus babies, as the FO is learning,  don't come with a guarantee.
    • Jason Creasy, RHP: He's workmanlike in the minors, but with nothing in his resume that really stands out.
    • Luis Heredia, RHP: Heredia posted a 5-6 record with a 5.44 ERA at Bradenton. He's only 21 and taking his career a little more seriously, but hasn't shown any of his potential yet.
    • Thomas Harlan, LHP: Harlan did a nice job transitioning as a starter in Altoona (6-3, 3.63). He may bear watching as he moves up, maybe returning to the pen.
    • Jeff Inman, RHP: He shows some potential, but has spent a lot of time down with injuries. He declared for minor league free agency.
    • John Kuchno, RHP: Kuchno is a groundball dawg, but with serious command issues.
    • Jhondaniel Medina, RHP: He pitched fairly well (3-2, 2.76 w/12 saves) for the Curve, tho he doesn't have a good K or BB rate. Still, he's just 22 and may come around.
    • Angel Sanchez, RHP: Sanchez had a breakout year at Altoona and Indy which unfortunately ended with TJ surgery. He has two options left and looks like a safe bet to slide through the draft since he won't be back until sometime in the 2017 season.
    • Eric Wood, 3B: Wood strikes out too much and had a steep learning curve at Altoona. LLike Medina, he's only 22 and has time to straighten out, especially playing a weak organizational position.
    How Rule 5 Works:

    Any player signed as an 18-year-old or younger in 2011 or as a 19-year-old or older in 2012 (and any player whose initial contract was renegotiated after signing) is eligible for the Rule 5 draft unless they were added to their team’s 40-man roster. A team that chooses a player in the Rule 5 Draft reimburses $50,000 to the team from which he was selected and put on the 40-man roster. The new team must keep the player on its Major League 25-man roster for all of the next season. That player must stay active and not on the DL for a minimum of 90 days. If not, he's offered back to the team he came from for $25,000. If the original squad doesn't accept the player back, he's placed on waivers.



    11/20: Jim Leyland Hired; Stu Traded; Rick Reuschel Honored; HBD Redstone Rocket

    • 1962 - The Pirates traded 1B Dick Stuart and P Jack Lamabe to the Boston Red Sox for P Don Schwall and C Jim Pagliaroni. Pags appeared in 490 games over the next five years for the Bucs, batting .254 while Schwall became a multi role pitcher, tossing four years for Pittsburgh with a 22-23-4/3.24 ERA. Stu hit 103 homers in the next three seasons and then faded away, while Lamabe lasted six more seasons in the show, with strong campaigns in 1966-67.
    Jim Pagliaroni IDL Drug Store promo
    • 1985 - 36 year old Rick Reuschel was named the NL’s Major League Comeback Player of the Year by United Press International. Reuschel went 14-8 with a 2.27 ERA, starting the year with Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League after signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh in February. Rick went on to win 71 more games in the next five seasons with the Bucs and Giants before running out of gas and hanging up the spikes in 1991.
    • 1985 - Syd Thrift hired Jim Leyland to manage the Pirates, replacing Chuck Tanner. During his Pirate years from 1986 to 1996, Leyland won two Manager of the Year awards (1990 & 1992), finished as runner-up in 1988 and 1991 and led the team to three divisional titles (1990-92).
    Jim Leyland at PC after being hired in 1985 (photo Bill Lewis/Pittsburgh Press)
    • 1987 - LHP Jeff Locke was born in North Conway, New Hampshire. He joined the Bucs in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade, and the Redstone Rocket (nicknamed by a local paper, Redstone is his home neighborhood, and Jeff had a mean HS fastball, copacetically timed with NASA’s moon-launch from a Redstone Rocket) made his MLB debut in 2011, joining the rotation full time in 2013 and earning an All-Star berth that season.

    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    11/19: Barry Bonds MVP; Dick Groat Traded; Jose Lind Dealt; HBD Uncle Al

    • 1847 - Albert G. Pratt, nicknamed "Uncle Al," was born in Pittsburgh (actually, he was from Allegheny City, now the North Side). Pratt was a pitcher who played for three top flight Pittsburgh indy teams, the Enterprise Club, The Allegheny Club and the Xanthus. The Civil War vet also tossed a couple of years for the professional Cleveland Forest Citys and then umped afterward, but is best remembered locally as the skipper of the first major league club in Pittsburgh, the Alleghenys, which joined the American Association in 1882. Uncle Al managed the club from 1882-83, going 51-56. He was also an organizer of the Union Association, and a part owner of the National League Pittsburgh club in 1890 during the Players League revolt. Uncle Al's biggest moment in history came on May 4th, 1871. In front of 200 paying customers, Pratt pitched in the first contest of the National Association, baseball's initial pro circuit. His Forest City nine lost 2-0 to Fort Wayne.
    Uncle Al (via the Baseball Page)
    • 1962 - Dick Groat was traded with P Diomedes Olivo to the St. Louis Cardinals for P Don Cardwell and IF Julio Gotay. Groat played five more years, making two All-Star teams, finishing second in the MVP vote in 1963, and won another World Series. Traded as part of a Joe Brown youth movement, Groat was stunned by the deal - he was born in Wilkinsburg - and didn’t associate with the team again until a 1990 reunion of the 1960 World Series Championship team.
    • 1990 - LF Barry Bonds won the NL MVP in a runaway by taking the top spot on 23 of the 24 ballots cast to top teammate and runner-up Bobby Bonilla (.280/32/120). Bonds hit .301 with 23 HR, 114 RBI, and had 52 stolen bases. The All-Star duo led the Pirates to 95 wins and a first place finish in the NL East, but Pittsburgh lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS.
    Barry Bonds 1990 Upper Deck
    • 1992 - The Pirates traded 2B Jose Lind to the KC Royals for pitchers Dennis Moeller and Joel Johnston. Chico was beset with personal problems and was out of baseball after the 1995 season. Johnston, once the Royals top prospect, had a strong 1993 season but quickly faded and was out of baseball after 1995; Moeller made ten appearances in Pittsburgh and those marked the extent of his MLB days

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015

    11/18: Pittsburgh Joins NL; Rincon Deal; HBD Jim & Rocky; Clint & Josh Honored; Russ Flies the Coop; Murtaugh To Pgh

    • 1882 - The case of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys versus C Charlie Bennett was decided. Prior to the 1882 season, Allegheny signed Bennett to a $100 agreement which stated that he would sign an 1883 contract with the club. Instead, Bennett re-signed with the Detroit Wolverines. The Western Pennsylvania District Court ruled in Bennett’s favor for several reasons, including restraint of trade and because there was no concrete contract agreed to by the parties. Sadly, Bennett lost both his legs in 1894 when he was run over by a train. He played for the Wolverines for eight seasons, and they named their stadium after him. Charlie is also credited with the first chest protector; his was a cork-lined vest he wore under his jersey.
    • 1886 - The NL officially admitted the Alleghenys, who became the first franchise to jump from the American Association. The club made a reported profit of $160,000 in 1886 (per Wikipedia) and finished second in the AA, making the decision a no-brainer for the NL. The 1887 Pittsburgh Alleghenys finished sixth in their first NL campaign with a 55-69 record. They played at Recreation Park that year and became known as the Pirates a few seasons later in 1891. The Bucs date their history from their entrance into the NL, although the Alleghenys formed in 1882 and played in the American Association, a rival league that was considered to be major league at the time, with the two champions playing each other in the post-season from 1884-90 in loosely organized title bouts.
    Pud Galvin won 28 games for the 1887 Alleghenys (1887 Old Judge)
    • 1924 - 1B Glenn “Rocky” Nelson was born in Portsmouth, Ohio. He got a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in 1951 and then platooned with Dick Stuart from 1959-61. He hit .270 as a Pirate, and in the 1960 World Series went 3-for-9 with a Game Seven homer and two RBI. Rocky may have been a MLB journeyman, but he was a minor league terror. In 1958, Nelson was voted the International League’s MVP after winning the triple crown while a Toronto Maple Leaf. He was inducted into the IL Hall of Fame and later into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He earned his nickname the hard way, according to SABR: while in the St. Louis Cardinals training camp, Whitey Kurowski bounced a ball off Nelson's noggin during a pepper game and then added insult to injury by afterward anointing him with the moniker Rocky.
    • 1943 - LHP Jim Shellenback was born in Riverside, California. He was a seldom used reliever for the Pirates from 1966-67 and 1969, going 1-1-2 with a 3.35 ERA. He put together a nine year career with some solid seasons for the Washington Senators and afterward became a long-time minor league pitching coach for the Twins organization.
    Jim Shellenback 1969 Topps
    • 1947 - The Bucs traded for 1B Johnny Hopp and 2B Danny Murtaugh, sending the Boston Braves C Bill Salkeld‚ P Al Lyons‚ and OF Jim Russell. Hopp played three years for the Pirates, hitting .310 but providing little power as a first baseman. Murtaugh’s career was stronger as a manager than player, but he started full-time around the infield in 1948, hitting .290, finishing his playing career as a Bucco reserve in 1951.
    • 1997 - The Pirates lost P Jason Johnson to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays while P Clint Sodowsky and 3B Joe “The Joker” Randa went to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft. Randa returned to the Pirate fold for his last MLB season in 2006.
    • 1998 - The Bucs sent LHP Ricardo Rincon to the Tribe for OF Brian Giles. In five campaigns with the Pirates, Giles would put up a line of .308/.426/.591 with 165 HR and 426 RBI and was twice named to the All-Star team. That deal began a chain reaction of swaps that eventually led to the Pirates acquiring Jason Bay, Ollie Perez, Xavier Nady, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, and Bryan Morris before the smoke finally cleared.
    Brian Giles 2000 Topps
    • 2014 - Free agent C Russ Martin officially signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after spending two playoff years behind the dish for the Bucs. Born in Toronto, it was a homecoming for the 31 year old Martin, sweetened by a five year, $82M contract.
    • 2014 - Manager Clint Hurdle was given the Brooks Robinson Community Service Award and All-Star Josh Harrison was named the MLB recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's (MLBPAA) 15th annual Legends for Youth Dinner. Hurdle was recognized for his work with the Prader-Willi Association, while Harrison’s award was given to “an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of baseball.”

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    11/17: Kendall, Bay Strike It Rich; Red Lucas Joins the Club, Danny Jackson Leaves

    • 1933 - The Pirates traded OF Adam Comorosky and 2B Tony Piet to the Reds for P Red Lucas and OF Wally Roettger. Lucas was the key player. He lasted five seasons in Pittsburgh, going 47-32/3.77 and making 96 starts. After the trade, Lucas never lost a game against his old Cincinnati mates, going 14-0 against them during the remainder of his career. Red went 15-4 in 1936 with a 3.18 ERA in his top Bucco campaign and was also handy off the bench with a stick (he started his minor league career in the OF), posting a career .281 BA. Red’s nickname, "The Nashville Narcissus," was coined by Colonel Bob Newhall, a reporter for the old Cincinnati Tribune, who thought the young pitcher who was raised in Nashville was a blooming baseball beauty per SABR.
    Red Lucas 1934 Diamond Stars
    • 1992 - The Pirates lost OF Alex Cole to the Colorado Rockies, along with P Danny Jackson and IF Ramon Martinez to the Florida Marlins, in the expansion draft. The Fish flipped Jackson to the Phils, where he won 26 games in 1993-94 and earned an All-Star nod.
    • 2000 - C Jason Kendall signed the richest contract in team history. The $60M, six-year contract extension, which included a $4M signing bonus, had a base salary of $6M in 2002 and peaked at $13M in 2007. To this point from his rookie year of 1996, Kendall had hit .300 or better every season except 1997, when he hit .294. He became the second highest paid active catcher in baseball, behind only Mike Piazza. He was traded to the Oakland A’s in 2004 before his salary jumped to seven figures.
    Jason Kendall 1997 PirateFest promo
    • 2005 - Jason Bay agreed to an $18.25M, four-year contract that ran through his arbitration eligible seasons. He hit .296 with 58 HR and 183 RBI in 2004-05 and began his career by winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. He was traded to Boston in 2008, before the deal ran out, and had a couple of solid years with the Red Sox before moving on to the NY Mets where injuries effectively derailed his career.

    Monday, November 16, 2015

    11/16: Dick Groat '60 MVP, Roberto Claims Honor in '66; Catfish & Dale Selected; HBD Brandon Cumpton

    • 1950 - The Pirates selected 1B/OF George “Catfish” Metkovich from Oakland of the Pacific Coast League in the Rule 5 draft. The 29 year-old had six seasons of MLB ball under his belt, but had spent the 1950 season with the Seals. He had a decent run with Pittsburgh, hitting .276 in two seasons and some change before being flipped in 1953 as part of the Ralph Kiner trade. The lefty earned his nickname when he stepped on a catfish during a fishing trip and cut his foot, causing him to miss several games. The Bucs also selected 1B Dale Long, but released him after a handful of games. He would return to the Pirates in 1955 and enter the record books a year later by homering in eight straight games.
    Catfish - 1951 Bowman series
    • 1960 - NL batting champ (.325) Dick Groat was named NL MVP, outpolling teammate Don Hoak 276-162. Also trailing him in the race were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks, all who had big years. Groat won despite losing the last three weeks of the season to a bad wrist, injured on a Lew Burdette pitch. Vern Law, Roberto Clemente, Roy Face and Smoky Burgess also received votes to place six Pirates among the Top Twenty finishers.
    • 1966 - RF Roberto Clemente won the NL MVP, finishing ahead of Dodger ace Sandy Koufax by a narrow 218-208 count. Clemente hit .317 with 29 HR and 119 RBI. His strong play kept the Pirates in the hunt until the next-to-last day of the season. The Great One finished the year fourth in batting, 10th in home runs and second in runs batted in.
    Roberto Clemente 1966 Topps series
    • 1988 - RHP Brandon Cumpton was born in Augusta, Georgia. A sixth starter, the Georgia Tech grad saw action as an injury replacement in 2013-24, going 5-5 with a 4.02 ERA. He was the ninth round pick of the Pirates in the 2010 draft, but his career has been put on hold after a recent run of injuries.

    Sunday, November 15, 2015

    11/15: Cobra Named MVP; Clint Hired; Branch on TSN Cover; Van Robays & Gus Bell BD's

    • 1914 - OF Maurice Van Robays was born in Detroit. Van Robays replaced RF Lloyd Waner late in 1939. He finished third in the NL with 116 RBI and received a smattering of MVP votes the next season. "Bomber" (his nickname after he hit 11 HR in 1940) had a strong 1941. MVR developed vision problems the following season and had to wear glasses, and it took him until 1943 to rediscover his batting stroke. Then he missed the war years of 1944-45 while serving with the 1st Infantry Division, and played one last season in Pittsburgh in 1946. Van Robay's is credited with naming Rip Sewell's famous "eephus" pitch. After seeing it delivered, Van Robays said "that's an eephus pitch," believed to refer to the Hebrew term for "nothing."
    Maurice Van Robay (photo: The Sporting News Collection)
    • 1928 - OF Gus Bell was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He came up with the Pirates, and between 1950-52 hit .270 with 40 HR. He was traded to the Reds, where he went on to win four All-Star berths. Gus is Buddy’s father and the grandpa of David and Michael.
    • 1950 - Branch Rickey was featured in a cartoon on the front page of The Sporting News for the story “Treasure Island,” shown plotting future Pirate moves on an X-marks-the-spot map. Unfortunately, the Bucs ran aground rebuilding during the Mahatma’s 1950-55 reign, although he is often credited with the spadework that led to the strong sixties clubs.
    • 1978 - RF Dave "The Cobra" Parker won the NL MVP, topping runner-up Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers. Parker had 30 HR with 117 RBI and led the league with a .334 batting average, a .585 slugging percentage, and 340 total bases. That was despite the fact that he missed two weeks after breaking his jaw in a home plate collision with the Mets' John Stearns and returned wearing a football-style facemask, thought to be the first time such a contraption was worn in an MLB game.
    • 2010 - Clint Hurdle, former Colorado manager, became the Pirates sixth field boss since 1992, replacing John Russell. Clint was the first skipper to guide the team to a playoff spot since Jim Leyland in 1992 when his club earned a wild card berth in 2013 while also snapping a record-setting 20-season losing streak, and has been in the playoffs for three straight years.
    Clint Hurdle (photo via Whirl Magazine)

    Saturday, November 14, 2015

    11/14: Drabek Wins Cy Young; AJ Comes Home; Nine Man Deal w/Jays; Rojek Joins Team; HBD X-Man, Paul, Fred

    • 1881 - C/1B Fred Carisch was born in Fountain City, Wisconsin. Playing between 1903-06, the reserve hit .229 for the Pirates. Fred became the center of a storm in 1923, when as a Tigers' coach, he was forced to catch when his team's final receiver was ejected. A protest was filed, but the Cleveland Indians rallied to win in the tenth, making the point moot.
    • 1947 - The Bucs bought SS Stan Rojek, 29, from the Dodgers with plans to make him the starter in Pittsburgh; he was blocked by Pee Wee Reese in Brooklyn. He played 156 games and hit .290 in 1948, but faded after that season, became a backup in 1950 and was traded to the Cards in 1951.
    Stan Rojek 1949 Bowman series
    • 1967 - RHP Paul Wagner was born in Milwaukee. A 12th round draft pick in 1989, he pitched for the Pirates for six campaigns, from 1992-97, mainly as a starter, and went 26-40/4.58. Wagner came close to capturing a little magic - in 1995, he had a no-hitter broken up against the Colorado Rockies with two out in the ninth on an AndrĂ©s Galarraga single.
    • 1978 - OF Xavier Nady was born in Salinas, California. The X-Man played for the Bucs from 2006-08, hitting .301 as a Pirate. He had been on the Pirate radar for awhile - GM Dave Littlefield tried to pry him from the Padres in 2003, and settled on Jason Bay instead when SD wouldn’t deal Nady. The Friars were that high on him - Nady went straight to the majors without playing minor league ball in 2000 while with San Diego, though the stay didn’t last long, as he was sent to the farm after one game.
    Xavier Nady 2007 Upper Deck series
    • 1990 - RHP Doug Drabek, who posted a 22-6 record and a 2.76 ERA, was named the NL Cy Young winner and became the first Pirate since Vern Law in 1960 to take home the award. He received 23 of 24 first-place votes and 118 of a possible 120 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
    • 1996 - The Pirates sent 2B Carlos Garcia, 1B/OF Orlando Merced and P Dan Plesac to the Toronto Blue Jays for P Jose Silva, IF Abraham Nunez, and OF Craig Wilson plus prospects SS Brandon Cromer, P Jose Pett and P Mike Halperin, who never got out of the minors.
    Jose Silva 2001 Topps series
    • 2014 - RHP AJ Burnett returned to the Pirate flock, signing a one year contract valued at $8.5M after a dismal season (8-18/4.59) in Philadelphia. He told the media that “This is where I want to finish my career, playing for this team and for this city. I want to win a ring, and I want to do it in Pittsburgh.” Burnett left $4.25M on the table for the reunion by turning down a player option worth $12.75M with Philadelphia to become a FA, and had his agent negotiate solely with the Pirates. AJ had pitched in 2012-13 for the Bucs, winning 26 games with a 3.41 ERA before moving across the state. He finished with another solid season, going 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA, slowed down with a late year injury.

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Friday Notes: Hot Stove, Awards, Moves, MiLB Prospects

    • No surprise, but CBS' Jon Heyman writes that Mark the Shark and Pedro are on the trading block.
    • Among Bucco FA's, it's reported that Jokiam Soria already has interest at least a half dozen teams while KC may or may not be kicking Travis Snider's tires.
    • Right-handed reliever Guido Knudson was claimed off waivers from the Tigers and added to the 40-man. Knudson, 23, posted a 2.56 ERA with 11 saves  in AAA last season, tho he was beat up in the show, giving up homers in his first four appearances. He's a fastball/slider guy with a strong K rate, an equally high walk rate and a fly ball pitcher to boot, but he has options remaining and can go multiple innings so the Bucs have time & reason to tinker.
    • Andrew McCutchen became the first Bucco to win four Louisville Silver Slugger awards, breaking a logjam with Barry Bonds, Bobby Bo and Rick Rhoden, each of whom took home three trophies (Bonds and Rhoden took three straight, giving Cutch another franchise best mark with four in a row). Andrew hit .292 with 23 HRs, 96 RBI, .401 OBP and .889 OPS in 2015 after falling below the Mendoza Line by the end of April.
    • Starling Marte was named a 2015 Gold Glove Award winner, the first time he has earned the honor. Marte led all NL left fielders in fielding percentage (.995), making just one error in 196 total chances. He also led all National League outfielders with 16 assists, the most by a Pirates outfielder since Jose Guillen had 16 in 1998. Cutch and Gerrit Cole were finalists, but lost out to AJ Pollock and Zack Grienke. Starling also won the Wilson MLB Defensive Player of the Year honors for LF.
    Starling Marte, Glove Guy (Photo: Associated Press)
    • The NL Rookie of the Year finalists are Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang. The winner will be announced November 16th. Bryant already has one ROY under his belt, having claimed the Players Choice rookie award.
    • The Bucs lost the Byung Ho Park lotto to the Twinkies. Park didn't make nearly as much sense as Kang because of position and cost with Josh Bell coming up and Michael Morse under contract. 
    • Baseball America has selected Pittsburgh's Top Ten Prospects - and eight are position players.
    • In the Arizona Fall League AS Game, Bucco OF prospect Austin Meadows drilled a two-run homer & RHP Trevor Williams pitched a quiet inning. Meadows didn't finish out the AFL season; he left a week early to head home because of an ailing grandfather.
    • Speaking of Williams, it was speculated at the time that the deal for him was oddly one-sided and actually compensation from Miami for raiding Jim Benedict. Jayson Stark of ESPN writes that was exactly the case.
    Trevor Williams (photo Baseball America)
    • John Dreker of Pirates Prospects confirmed that "According to sources in Puerto Rico, it's official now that the Pirates and Marlins will play two games there, May 30th & 31st."
    • The Pirates named Ron Hopkins and Matt Ruebel special assistants to the GM. Hopkins was once Director of Scouting for the Rangers while Ruebel was working as a national supervisor in the club's scouting department. Ruebel also has the added cachet of being an ex-Bucco pitcher, drafted by Pittsburgh in 1991 and tossing for the team from 1996-97. They replaced Marc DelPiano and Jim Benedict, who flew the coop to join the Marlins.
    • Also promoted: Rodney Henderson (who was a cup-of-coffee big league pitcher in the 90s) and long-time evaluator Everett Russell were advanced from regional amateur birddog roles to professional (MLB, MiLB) scouts.
    • The Pirates are doing off season upkeep on PNC Park's riverwalk, service and suite levels thanks to $600K approved by the Sports & Exhibition Authority for the work from the maintenance fund.

    11/13: Willie Shares MVP; Bucco Blackmail; HBD Jack Hallett; "Beat 'em Bucs" Premieres

    • 1914 - RHP Jack Hallett was born in Toledo, Ohio. He tossed for the Bucs from 1942-43, and then after wartime service returned in 1946. Working mostly from the pen, Hallett went 6-10 with a 3.06 ERA for Pittsburgh. He was also a solid stick, hitting .238 with one home run in 80 lifetime at-bats, and a perfect fielder, handling all 60 of his career chances flawlessly.
    Forbes Field
    • 1956 - The Pirates announced that they would consider moving out of town if a new stadium wasn’t built to replace Forbes Field, the second oldest yard in baseball after Shibe Park in Philly. Buc VP & co-owner Tom Johnson said in the Pittsburgh Press that “What we need is a municipal stadium in Pittsburgh we both (Pirates & Steelers) can use. If we don’t get one, there’s a chance the Pirates will have to leave this city.” They got their wish, though it took some time. The political football was kicked around for years until Three Rivers Stadium opened in July of 1970.
    TRS
    • 1979 - For the first time in MLB history, two players shared the MVP. The NL co-winners were Willie Stargell, who hit .281 with 32 HRs, and the Cards 1B Keith Hernandez, who led the NL in runs scored (116), doubles (48), and batting average (.344). With the win, the Pirates had taken (or shared) all four MVP awards for the season (All-Star Game, NLCS, World Series, and NL regular season) for the first sweep in MLB history. Stargell took the honors for the NLCS, World Series, and NL regular season, while Dave Parker won the All-Star Game MVP.
    • 2010 - Beat ‘Em, Bucs! The Byham Theater hosted a sneak preview of a 50-year-old B&W movie, copied from TV for owner Bing Crosby, of NBC's telecast of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. Dick Groat and Bob Costas were the event hosts of The MLB Network production, later aired on TV and then made available on DVD. The Post Gazette’s Bob Hoover wrote “Fans hailed the eight members of the '60 team invited for the showing, clapped rhythmically to start rallies, reacted loudly every time Roberto Clemente appeared on the screen and leapt to their feet for the two clutch home runs in the eighth (Hal Smith) and ninth (you know who) innings.

    Thursday, November 12, 2015

    11/12: Bucs Deal For Cervelli; HBD Charlie Morton, Mark the Shark Headlines International Tour

    • 1983 - Charlie Morton was born in Flemington, New Jersey. The promising righty came to Pittsburgh in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade with Atlanta. Despite excellent stuff, has been in-and-out of the rotation ever since because of various injuries and spotty performances.
    • 2014 - LHP Justin Wilson was traded to the New York Yankees for C Francisco Cervelli. It marked the third straight off-season that the Bucs took on a Yankee catcher, signing FA Russ Martin for the 2013-14 seasons and acquiring Chris Stewart for the 2014 campaign. Fran had a strong introductory campaign, getting into 130 games and batting .295 while Wilson appeared in 74 games, posting a 3.10 ERA for the Bronx Bombers.
    Fran Cervelli (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
    • 2014 - MLB sent a squad overseas to open a 10-day, five game Japanese All-Star series, the first since 2006. Mark Melancon represented the Pirates, along with ex-Bucs Jose Veras, Eric Katz and Justin Morneau. The team played the five regular games in Osaka, Tokyo and Sapporo, with exhibitions in Koshien and Okinawa. For Melancon, it was just another good-will trip in a long string of overseas MLB ventures. He had represented baseball in camps held in South Africa, Taiwan, China, New Zealand and Australia in the past.